Children of today are surrounded by digital technology from their birth; however, they have limitations in understanding it and lack the skills and competencies to shape and make it to suit their needs and desires. Children should know how to innovate, design and build new technology; the mere ability to use it is not sufficient anymore. They should be offered such skills and competences, added with a critical stance towards design, making and technology as well as a will to utilize those for empowering people and making the world a better place. Schools and teachers are in desperate need of help in educating children in this respect.

The Make-a-differnece project aims to understand and facilitate the emergence of critical designer and maker identities among children. This will be accomplished by exploring and engaging in critical design and making activities together with children. The project objectives are:

  • Theoretical: development of a theoretical framework on children’s critical designer and critical maker identity emergence and trajectories: on their emergence, negotiation, rejection and/or performance
  • Empirical: creation of rich, in-depth dataset of the emergence, negotiation, rejection and performance of critical designer and critical maker identities, activities and discourses among children.
  • Methodological: methodological guidelines for critical design and making with children and adaptation of nexus analysis for the study of critical design and making with children.

The project contributes to scientific knowledge by accomplishing the following expected outcomes

  • Theoretical framework on children’s critical designer and maker identity trajectories: on identity emergence, negotiation, rejection and performance: understanding of the variety of ways how critical design and making may be intertwined in children’s everyday practices, identities and discourses. This involves further development of the identity lens for the purposes of this research.
  • Rich, in-depth dataset: on the emergence, negotiation, rejection and performance of critical designer and critical maker identities, activities and discourses among children.
  • Methodological guidelines for critical design and making with children.
  • Methodological guidelines for nexus analytic inquiry on children and critical design and making.

The four-year project started in Jan 2020 and is funded by the Academy of Finland. Project collaborators include:

  • Center for Computational Thinking & Design, Aarhus University, Denmark.
  • Cultural Research in Technology Lab, School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering,  Indiana University Bloomington, Indiana, U.S.A.
  • Department of Industrial Design​, Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands.
  • Embodied Learning & Experience Lab, Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering, University of Florida, U.S.A.
  • Department of Computer Science and Research Center for Excellent IT Education, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway.
  • Free University of Bolzen-Bolzano, Italy.

From Autumn 2020, the project has been ongoing with three schools in Oulu with over 20 pupils in each school. The materials used at the schools, which include design booklets, inspirational videos, and other handouts, will be made available soon.

[Page last updated: 2nd September 2021]